What the Aunties Did: Jan, Feb 2017


School bags, blue hair, swimming lessons, food, phones and new collaborations – so much has happened in the last couple of months in the life of the Aunties we haven’t even officially reported in. Aunty Jackie has done a fine job of staying in touch with everyone, but here’s the official summary of what the Aunties did so far this year.

Let’s go back to Christmas when the Aunties pulled out all the stops to give women and kids in refuge as much seasonal glee as we could. There were presents for 86 kids (they were given three gifts each and the look of wonder in their eyes would warm your heart till Easter) and we also gave 20 luxury food hampers to women to make their Christmas special, too.

Since then we’ve also tried to give 2017 the best possible start. The Aunties paid for swimming lessons, and for a parenting course at the refuge. We bought 120 schoolbags, some clothes for a woman and her three children, and socks for another woman and her kids, and ordered some food online for two women. We also paid a phone bill, fixed a woman’s car, and moved furniture into a woman’s new house.

We got some very specific requests – a 13 year old wanted more than anything else to have her hair dyed blue, so we made that happen for her birthday. We provided sewing machines for two women, and we bought cakes for other women having birthdays.

The Aunties are very excited about a couple of new relationships. We are now working with the NZ Prostitutes Collective and we’ve bought toiletries, sanitary products, wipes, undies and food for them. Aunty Jackie goes to visit them once a week to take clothes and hotel toiletries which they make up into packs for street workers – so if you are travelling, grab those little bottles and pass them on to us. Aunty Jackie marched proudly with the NZPC in the Pride Parade in February. (They did her makeup, and she looked hot.)

We’ve also started a relationship with Rainbow Youth – we’ve bought them $400 worth of undies so far.

We’ve also bought mobile phones for the women in refuge – such an important part of keeping them safe – and paid for a woman to have her house valued so she is able to arrange the sale safely while her abuser is still living there.

And we know we’ve filled a lot of people’s hearts with joy – including our own, and yours we hope, too.

So thank you for being part of this, and let’s do some more!





A Day Spent Auntying With The Aunty-In-Charge

Yesterday was a big donations pick up day. I asked a friend, Blair, if he would come and help me. And then I asked him if he’d write about it, in an effort to make other people maybe think about doing it too. These are his words (and I didn’t pay him, I promise).

Jackie Clark is technically the liaison, advocate and founder of The Aunties but really, she is just a force of nature with a mind like a steel trap, a huge heart and the irrepressible gift of the gab. She is also great company so when she indicated she was doing a charity goods pickup, I offered to help. Not out of a sense of obligation but because I knew we’d have fun.

Jackie has a little car and I have a larger wagon so I became the driver. My first pick up was Jackie, and then we were off! Eight pickups across greater Auckland. Jackie had another prized possession firmly in her left hand, a new phone, and she immediately put it to good use activating the GPS navigator. The car was filled with banter as the three of us chatted, organised and directed. Two human voices were competing for airspace with a bossy electronic third that repeatedly ordered us to; ‘Take the first exit at the roundabout’. Jackie soothed and gently mollified the digital harridan as you would a toddler having a tantrum while she simultaneously provided firm directional hand signals to the other, slightly flustered, human occupant. We reach our first destination.

It was clear from the onset that Jackie had prepared the groundwork. Precise instructions on what was acceptable had been delivered and received. Bags were waiting at doors, neatly organised and their contents labelled. These specific instructions were reiterated along with hugs and kisses with the donor. I was offered a welcome coffee and so began a pattern for the day; The items were quickly and efficiently packed into the car within a minute, a beverage offered and a conversation started.

I listened with fascination as interesting people talked on a variety of topics with passion and flair. Jackie can talk and does so but she is also a wonderful listener and responded ably and knowledgeably to whatever topic was under discussion. A wide scope of topics was covered and the way of things dissected with gusto. I listened and learned. I drank my coffee. There was always time before leaving for Jackie to engage with the children, admire a treasured pet/home/piece of art/panoramic view and cuddle a child, pet or both. Less than an hour at each stop would have just been rude!

The playful driving conversational tri-play would then continue as we entered unexplored parts of West Auckland. More pick ups were completed, more lovely people met for the first time. More hugs from Jackie as we left and hand shakes proffered to me. The wagon was filling and so was my bladder after the diuretic effects of multiple cups of coffee. Jackie showed her experience at each stage by declining the offer. Still, tummies were grumbling and it was time to eat.

Three more pickups in the afternoon and we were done. There was no more space in the wagon. It was time to head for home.

The wagon was unpacked into a storage locker. Jackie thanked me again and impressed on me that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without me. I doubt that, having had some insight into her determination and resourcefulness, but I was happy to help and quite honestly, I got more out of helping than she would know. It really was a fun day and it flew by.

People were extraordinarily generous with their donations, time and company. They, for the most part, assiduously followed packing instructions and we were always welcomed in. While we shared plenty of laughs, like when we almost packed a donor’s refuse into the car or when a peacock was spotted posing like a weather-vain on a neighbour’s roof, what left the biggest impression of the day was the love on display. Love from the donors for the people of Auckland in need and love for Jackie and what she does. I was very proud to have helped today and so I’ve decided to help out again whenever Jackie needs me to… or did Jackie decide that… I’m slightly unclear. Anyway, it was great fun and such a rewarding experience.

Thank you Jackie, all the Aunties and the generous donors of Auckland. I had a blast.

Blair Mckinnon



It’s that time of year. A time to give thanks to everyone who helped make 85 kids Xmas a bit brighter.

For those of you unfamiliar with #refugexmas, it goes a bit like this. 3 years ago, a group of us decided we would give all the kids living in the refuge a bit of Xmas. It was all a bit overwhelming for everyone involved. I seem to remember 200 people bought presents for 40 or so kids. Some bought more than one, so we were inundated. Logistically, I was a bit out of my depth.  I matched up each person with a child, we had a huge wrapping party, and we made up banana box food parcels for the women, I went to my first refuge xmas party and this is what that looked like.  Things have changed somewhat. I now coordinate a larger group of Aunties, I think I’m a bit better at the SM stuff, and we are doing Xmas for more kids than ever, this year from 4 refuges and a whānau house that cares for families in crisis. This year, I tried a different tack. I asked people to send in gifts, so that there would be enough for heaps of kids, and also for birthdays throughout the next year. I had no idea if this would work or not, but it seemed to, as most things do in their own way. There were groups of people having buying sprees and people popping gift cards in the post. The pressies were stored in the storage unit – another new development – and we had a gathering of eight of us to wrap them all a couple of days before the refuge xmas party. The rest were delivered to their respective refuges, and it was done for another year.

Now, to be honest, it’s a logistical challenge. I’m learning all the time about what works best, and what not to do. For example: the willy nilly sending of presents works extremely well. For four years, I’ve been relying on people’s good will and generosity and none of you have let me down yet. What didn’t work so much was my disorganisation. Next year, bigger storage bins so I can sort age groups as I go, more effectively. And maybe start a little earlier. Provide presents for teenaged boys, who are notoriously difficult to get pressies for and who are easily forgotten in all the fuss. I’m also convinced I should coordinate people to send as many pressies as possible so that we have enough to take a good big load down to the City Mission.

So that’s next year. Be warned! I’ll be asking for pressies from October!

And back to this year. So many people to thank. Xmas has become, effectively, the only time when Aunties actually get to do stuff together, if in small groups. The shopping for the womens xmas baskets, and the wrapping. And that’s it. Other than that, Aunties don’t get to volunteer, really. I just ask for money and stuff, and it arrives and then I do the stuff that needs doing. So it’s a bit of a special thing, this Xmas malarkey. A lovely lovely thing.

Thank you to Paul and Abbey, Rachel and Chantel, Rosie and Alex who came to do the shopping for the women’s gift baskets. The fastest shopping trip yet, and the baskets turned out beautifully.

Thank you Hillary and Gloria and Alex for the gorgeous soaps and toiletries which were put in the staff gift baskets. They look forward to them every year!

Thanks to my lovely Helene who’s having a really rough time right now, and despite all that, gave me booty for the women – which got waylaid and delivered to the City Mission instead…..

Many thanks to DePaul House in Northcote who donated presents which were given to the City Mission, because we had so many.

Thank you to Mary, Kerry, Alison, Romilly, Susan, Trish and Claudine who sorted and wrapped all the presents and put up with me panicking and flapping my hands with said panic. We got it done though…..

Thanks to Kirsti for delivering a new bike to two very happy kids.

Thank you to Heather who coordinated presents for a couple of refuges in Christchurch, and got Sherry to bring another huge suitcase up for us as well!

Thanks to everyone who sent presents. Really. You went completely over the top, and actually that was just what was needed, and worked beautifully.

Thank you in particular to: Fliss, Penny,  Hariata, Rikki, Kate, Claire, Allison, Siobhan, Victoria, Leonie, Rachel, Jenni, Phil, Julie, Michéle, Jackson, and everyone who sent, or brought me,  presents for the kids. Some of you sent named boxes, some of you didn’t, and that’s likely something I need to do next year. Take a note of everyone’s names so I can thank you effectively!

Many thanks to everyone who put money in the givealittle so that we could fill the womens baskets and buy them PNS gift vouchers. Thank you Sue, Toni, B, Caroline, Sabine, David, Suzi, Tracey, Ceara, Georgie, Heather, and Jen amongst many anonymous others.

Many thanks to everyone who helped to make these women and kids have a better xmas than their last ones. And thanks especially to those of you who gave gifts and stuff for J, who has just had her baby and is feeling a little overwhelmed, and A* who is in a new home, free from pain (she calls her past her book of hurt), and absolutely thrilled with everyone’s kindness to her. Thanks to many of you, she not only has Xmas but also furniture!

Thank you above all to Michéle, Jackson, Elaine, Phil, Paul and Julie who, every day, have sent me gifs to cheer me on, and been such a bloody asset, I cannot be more thankful. They have made all of this so much easier.

Three years ago, all of this, The Aunties, had only just begun. Now, well, so much change has happened. So many good things have happened. So much love from you all to the women. Xmas is a time for kids, traditionally, but in this case, it really makes a difference for their mums, too. Thank you.

What The Aunties Did, November 2016

November has been a pretty special month for us – Auntie Jackie (our Auntie-In-Charge) retired from her teaching position and became a fulltime, hands-on, roll-your-sleeves-up auntie. This is, right now, unpaid work but one day we hope to find ways to fund the leadership she gives us.


So because we have a fulltime Auntie, a lot has been done. We made contact with a particularly vulnerable young woman and provided bedding for her, plus bedding for two Shine refuges. We went shopping for some baby stuff for a woman who has a baby and not much else. We bought some bras for a woman who didn’t have any, and some tyres for another woman’s car, and some Warehouse gift cards for a family, and some cheap phones for women who had made it into refuge, paid a doctor’s bill, and fixed a TV aerial for a woman who has left refuge for her own place so she can watch a bit of telly. We gave several women vouchers for groceries and for clothes and household things, and paid for another woman to sit her full driver’s licence so she can move around the world independently.


We advocated on behalf a person with the police, and have been asked to continue that advocacy for them with MSD and Housing NZ and other agencies that can be difficult to navigate on your own, especially when you’re not at your best because life is scary and hard. It makes a difference to have someone sitting beside you.


Auntie Jackie took one of the women and her daughter out for lunch (her treat) and bought her little girl her very first Fluffy. To be honest, she preferred her mama’s iced chocolate but every kid should get a Fluffy at some point, even if it’s so they can work out that iced chocolate is better.


We are also getting Christmas-busy, filling our new storage unit with containers full of gifts and clothes. We make an effort to gather up presents that match up with the 70 or so kids we will have at the refuge Christmas party – have a look at our Facebook page to see ages and genders and particular wishes, and let us know if there is a kid you would like to buy a gift for. Some of us are picking kids the same age as our own kids or grandkids, and buying them the same stuff to make the shopping easy. The party happens in the week before Christmas. We’re getting some really lovely things to give to these kids – lots of them don’t get brand new, shiny things to unwrap in an ordinary year, so we’re working hard to make this one special.


So thank you to all of you – Aunties and friends – for your gifts of cash and kind (and kindness) for helping us get all this done.


Nga mihi nui,

The Aunties